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Cuba disconnects internet as protests against the country’s communist dictatorship rage

Havana (AP) — Cubans facing the worst economic crisis in the country in decades I took you to the street On the weekend. Authorities then blocked social media sites with obvious efforts to block the flow of information in and out of poor countries.

Restricting Internet access has become a proven method. Repressive dissent by authoritarian regime Around the world, along with government-sponsored disinformation campaigns and promotions. At the extreme, governments like China and North Korea have tight control over what the general public can access online. Elsewhere, denial of service is more restricted and often blocks popular social platforms around times of elections and large-scale protests.

There was no official organizer of Sunday’s protest. People learned about social media, the rallying point on Twitter and Facebook, which is the most used platform for Cubans. Thousands of Cubans on the streets, including protesters and pro-government activists, used their smartphones to capture images, send them to relatives and friends, and post them online.

Alp Toker, director of London-based internet surveillance company Netblocks, said Cuban authorities had blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram on Monday. “This seems to be a reaction to social media-fueled protests,” he said. Twitter didn’t seem to be blocked, but Toker said it could be blocked if Cuba wanted it.

While the recent relaxation of access to the Internet by Cuban authorities has increased social media activity, so has the level of censorship, Talker said. The cutoff not only blocks the outside voice, but also crushes the “internal voice of those who wanted to raise their voice.”

Internet access in Cuba is expensive and until recently it was relatively rare. Ted Henken, a Latin American expert at City University of New York at Baruch College, said the country was “basically offline” until 2008, but then gradually entered the digital revolution. He said the biggest change happened in December 2018, when Cubans first accessed the mobile internet through a data plan purchased from the state’s telecommunications monopoly. Recently, Henken said more than half of all Cubans have access to the Internet.

Today, many Cubans have access to the Internet anytime, anywhere and can share information. Since early 2019, this access has facilitated regular events and protests on the island. In response, he said, the government regularly shuts down access to social media, primarily to hide its oppressive tactics from both citizens and foreigners.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Cuban government has also restricted Cuba’s independent media and “regularly blocks access to many news websites and blogs in Cuba.”

Cuba is experiencing the worst economic crisis in decades, with the resurgence of coronavirus cases, as it suffers from the consequences of US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Sebastian Arcos, Deputy Director of the Cuba Institute at Florida International University, said, “Increased access to the Internet and smartphones in Cuba is now absolutely and surely driving the biggest protests in decades. There are. “

“The Cubans are demanding freedom from the authoritarian regime. US President Joe Biden said in a brief conversation with reporters at the beginning of a meeting with the mayor and law enforcement officers, such protests. Frankly, I don’t think it’s been seen for a long time. “Discuss gun violence in the United States

“We support the Cuban people, and their clear statement comes from the tragic grip of the pandemic, and from the decades of oppression and financial suffering they have suffered from the Cuban authoritarian regime. We are seeking freedom and relief, “Biden said in a previous statement on Monday. “The Cubans bravely advocate basic and universal rights.”

The scene of demonstrators on the Malecon promenade in Havana and elsewhere on the island was unusual as Communist Party leadership historically showed little tolerance to criticism. Police initially lag behind as protesters chanted “freedom,” “enough,” and “unity.” A motorcyclist pulled out the US flag, but was robbed by another.

Approximately two and a half hours after the march, some protesters pulled up the cobblestones and threw them into the police, at which point police began arresting people and the march disbanded. AP journalists counted at least 20 people who were taken away by police cars or individuals dressed in civilians.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Said on Twitter that Biden’s statement did not describe the Cuban government as a “socialist and communist,” and spent a full day admitting protesters. He accused Biden of taking it.

Social media posts from inside and outside Cuba “are not the root cause of the rebellion, but the link between despair and dissatisfaction on the island,” said Arturo Lopez Levi, an assistant professor of political science at Holy. .. Name the University of California.

Lopez Levy, who grew up a few blocks from Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz Cannell, said Cuba’s current leaders embrace the economic potential of digital technology far more than their predecessors, but in Cuba. Temporary Internet shutdown, if most help it restore street order.

Elsewhere, government Internet shutdowns are also common after or before protests, whether for hours or months. In Ethiopia, there was a three-week closure in July 2020 after public unrest.The· Internet power outage It has been going on for months in the Tigray region. In Belarus, after the August 2020 elections, there was a large-scale protest with fraudulent sparks, and the Internet went down for more than two days. Mobile internet services have repeatedly shut down during weekend protests for the next few months.

Ten years ago in the Arab Spring, when social media was still in its infancy and Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries faced bloody riots broadcast on social media, the headline declared the movement a “Twitter revolution.” And experts say the importance of the role that social media played at the event. Ten years later, social media and private chat platforms have undoubtedly become indispensable organizing tools. Second, limiting them is a routine move to curb objections. Internet services were disrupted in Cali, Colombia, during a May anti-government protest.

This year there was also turmoil in Armenia, Uganda, Iran, Chad, Senegal and the Republic of the Congo.

But authoritarian regimes are not the only ones involved in action. India regularly shuts down the Internet during uncertain times. NetBlocks Toker said the enforcement of Internet restrictions in Cuba is following a new global pattern rather than the most anticipated countries, such as the recent Twitter cutoff in Nigeria. On the plus side, he said, the world is far more aware of these incidents because of their ease of remote monitoring and reporting.

Network management firm Doug Madley said the entire Cuba went offline within 30 minutes on Sunday, followed by a few hours of intermittent but major outages. He said that until very recently in Cuba, large-scale internet outages are extremely rare.

“Following the’27N’protest, there was a suspension in January just for mobile services,” Madley said. Movement of Cuban artists, journalists and other members of civil society Marched to the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020, demanding freedom and democracy.

Henken said he does not expect the government to block access for long periods of time, despite being a reliable tactic for dissidents and activists.

“The problem they have now is that it’s not a handful of activists, artists, or independent journalists. It’s now a large band of population across the country,” he said. “So the genie is out of the bottle. They are trying to put it back.”

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AP Havana correspondent Andrea Rodriguez and AP Technology Reporter Matt O’Brien contributed to this article.

Cuba disconnects internet as protests against the country’s communist dictatorship rage

Source link Cuba disconnects internet as protests against the country’s communist dictatorship rage

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